Hunting in 2010's ‘Red Dead Redemption' was simple: shoot, kill, skin, and spend every waking hour trying to better a 700-pound grizzly bear with a knife. Red Dead Redemption 2 sticks by that formula and expands on it in every way it can — pairing its overarching bursts of realism with a living, breathing ecosystem that has close to 200 species of animals to interact with. Its depth is a little daunting to say the least, even for those who spent way too many hours glued to a ‘Big Buck Hunter' cabinet, so we threw together a small RDR2 hunting guide that covers the basics and underlines the various systems at play. Tip: If all else fails, well... at least there's fishing.
1. Use your binoculars
Your trusty pair of binoculars has its wide range of uses (i.e. bird watching, home robberies) and it's one of the most essential hunting tools in Red Dead Redemption 2. It allows you to identify animal information and initiate tracking from a safe distance, but it also gives you an opportunity to survey the environment(s) in front of you. The world is littered with creeks, ravines, swamps, forests, and open prairies, and your ‘nocs are a quick option for monitoring herd patterns, animal behaviours, and predators who couldn't care less about your horse and your current bonding level.
2. Study everything in sight
Focus. Hold RB/R1. And repeat. Studying every new animal you come across adds them to the in-game compendium – highlighting which locations they can be found in, how they can be used for crafting and cooking, and which weapons you should use in order to get a clean kill. It also lets you identify their quality and rating which is based on a three-star system that ranges from ‘poor' to ‘pristine'. Generally, ‘poor' and ‘good' animals are ideal for providing the camp with daily provisions while ‘pristine' animals are more likely to drop ‘perfect pelts' which can be sold and used for crafting unique pieces of clothing, equipment, saddlebags, and more (see below).
3. Practice clean kills
The quickest way to a perfect pelt is through a clean kill. Obtaining one can be a tricky process since ‘pristine’ animals are more aware of general noise (and your scent) and since everything from American Pronghorn Bucks to Virginia Opossums produces a specific pelt based on the weapon you’re using. The Bow and the Varmint Rifle are meant for smaller animal groups such as rabbits, badgers, and foxes while the Springfield Rifle and Rolling Block Rifle are a necessity for larger game such as bears, bison, and moose. Additional items such as small game arrows, poison arrows, and tomahawks are also at your disposal, but the key here is to aim for the head or the heart of your target. You’ll miss half the shots you do take when you’re just starting out so practice and experiment with your bow to increase both your Health XP and Dead Eye XP.
4. Upgrade your inventory
Tired of going duck hunting in the grasslands of New Hanover only to run out of storage space? Well, there’s a ‘hack’ for that. Upgrading your saddlebags at a local stable will increase the total number of smaller animals you can haul around via your horse while upgrading your satchels allows you to carry more ammo, tonics, and provisions. The latter might seem like a complete waste of time but you’ll scream hallelujah to the ‘yelling cowboy in the sky’ after your first 1v1 with a grizzly. Fact: It’s never pretty and they seemingly loathe horses named Sugar Plum.
5. Hunt efficiently
Pack the right rifles. Pick the right clothing. And for the love of all things wild and West, don’t use a new $1,300 steed on a hunt for alligators in the bayou. In other words, hunt efficiently. Wander around the wilderness with a horse you’ve developed a maximum bond with. Stock up on a few Horse Revivers in case things go wrong. Embark on hunting trips that are solely constructed for cooking or collecting skins. Clean your guns. Invest in throwing knives. Clean your guns again. And whatever you do, hunt by region and deliver your kills on time. The average horse can stow up to three animals at once – including one medium-sized animal on its back and two smaller animals on its side – but carcasses and pelts will decay over the course of a single day. They can also be damaged in conflict, whether that’s via a pack of gray wolves, after an unexpected tumble down a mountainside or following a good old fashioned shootout with the O’Driscolls.
6. Befriend your local trapper
The Trapper in Red Dead Redemption 2 is a national hero. His primary trading spot is located in Saint Denis but with four other open-world locations to choose from, he’s a one-stop shop for selling skins, carcasses, furs, hides, and feathers. He can also craft various clothing items and accessories from the animals and pelts you sell him which is where the hunting system really opens up. Perfect pelts can be used to make unique hats, coats, vests, chaps, gloves, boots, and saddles while legendary animal pelts can go towards outfit sets that are comprised of Panther Cloaks and Gambler’s Hats that would make Crocodile Dundee blush. Everything comes at an additional price, but there’s no better feeling than owning six different pairs of moccasins.
7. Practice via hunting challenges
Much of the hunting in ‘Red Dead Redemption’ revolved around puppeteering John Marston to complete various Master Hunter Challenges. They still very much exist and while ‘catching an opossum play possum’ isn’t as difficult as ‘killing two cougars with a melee knife’, they’re still a great tool to use to sharpen your approach to tracking, baiting, and shooting. Completing them nets you cash, XP, and new gear but if you have already hunted the legendary ‘Giaguaro’, then you can always take on Hunting Requests. Ms. Hobbs’ posters can be found at post offices or train stations and require you to deliver perfect animal carcasses for a substantial cash reward.
8. Know your weapons
You've got to get to know your weapons. Not only does the weapon you choose affect how clean your kill is, but it can also impact how effective your kill is. For example, shotguns, especially used on smaller animals, leave lots of holes and can really ruin the pelt or carcass of the animal, making it hard to sell. The best rules of thumb: Aim for the head to get a clean kill and use the appropriate weapon on each animal.
9. Use your lasso
Guess what? Your lasso is good for more than just wrangling horses, cattle, and the occasional enemy. You can use your lasso to tie up animals and kill them super cleanly and efficiently. Once you've got the animal lassoed, you can easily stab it in the heart for a gorgeous pelt worth a good amount of money. You can use Dead Eye to help you nail your lasso placement if you're still working on developing that skill. Get up close to the animal you're hunting, and then as soon as the reticle is red, throw that lasso. You'll know you've got it when Arthur gets off his horse.
10. Load up your horses
Each horse can carry three animals. The more horses you tame, the more whole animals you can carry with you to the trapper or butcher. So, if you tame the maximum allowed three horses and load each of them up with three animals, you're looking at an impressive payday without the burden of trekking back and forth to the trapper or butcher.
11. Know where the animals live
Alright, pelt hunters. You need to know where those legendary animals are hiding if you want to get the best pelts to sell to the trapper. Don't worry — we've got you:
- Legendary Pronghorn: East of Fort Mercer at Rio Del Lobo Rock
- Legendary Fox: Rhodes, north of the fence
- Legendary Big Horn Ram: West of Valentine at Cattail Pond
- Legendary Bullgator: Bayou, west of Lakay
- Legendary Moose: Roanoke Ridge on the northeast edge of the map
- Legendary Elk: North of Fort Wallace and East of Bacchus Station
- Legendary Tatanka Bison: Hennigan's Stead, southeast of MacFarlane's
- Legendary Cougar: Gaptooth Ridge, west of Tumbleweed
- Legendary White Bison: Lake Isabella on the west end of the Grizzlies
- Legendary Coyote: Scarlett Meadows, northwest of Rhodes
- Legendary Bharati Grizzly Bear: Grizzlies East, north of O'Creagh's Run
- Legendary Wolf: Cotorra Springs, west of Bacchus Bridge
- Legendary Beaver: Southwest of Butcher Creek
- Legendary Buck: Northwest of Strawberry
- Legendary Boar: Bluewater Marsh, north of Lagras
12. Hide your smell
You know what animals love? Something stinky. The worse you smell, the closer you can get to your prey. Use Dead Eye to help you determine your body odor levels — and get super smelly so you can score that sweet kill. Otherwise, if you're a little too clean, you're going to have to keep an eye on which way the wind is blowing to keep your prey from getting a whiff of your fresh scent.
Armed with this guide, you'll be an unstoppable force in Red Dead Redemption 2. Happy hunting!